Establishing Significant Player Roles


Every team needs a "Go to" player that can score in crunch time. However, to insure success, teams need to have support specialists as well. As a result, coaches must establish and develop significant roles and assignments such as 6th Person, Defensive Stopper, Designated Inbounder, etc. The results and performance of these supporting roles rarely show up in the boxscore reports. However, they are extremely vital to a total team effort and any success. Therefore, they must be constantly acknowledge and reinforced by the entire coaching staff throughout the season.

| 6th Person | Defensive Stopper | Inbounds Passer | Free Throw Shooters |


5 Stars

Vital Importance of 6th Person Role

6th Person

It's not who starts the game, but rather who's on the court at the end of the game that matters.

The sixth person's role is to energize and make the team stronger.

The importance of the sixth person(s) role in basketball cannot be over emphasized. It is one thing all excellent teams have in common. Establishing and utilizing the sixth person role, in many ways, is a much more important coach's decision than determining the starters.

The late Boston Celtics coach, Red Auerbach, is often credited with developing and utilizing the sixth man role. It became a trade mark of the Celtics' NBA dynasty which included eight (8) consecutive NBA championships. Auerbach first used the sixth man role with Frank Ramsey. However, the most famous sixth man was John Havlicek, who revolutionized the sixth man role during his 16 year all-star career.

To be successful, the sixth person(s) must possess better skills and leadership than some of the starters. In addition, the sixth person usually can play multiple positions. Without exception, when they enter the game, their role is to energize and make the team stronger.

Game Even


Behind in Game

As a result, if the game is tied, it will provide the necessary boost to give the team the lead. If a team is already ahead, it will increase the lead, and if the team should be behind, it will afford them a chance to catch up.

Game Even
Game Even

Game Ahead

Game Behind
Behind in Game

However, on the other hand, if the over all strength of the team is decreased with the first substitution, if the game is tied, the team will fall behind. If they are ahead at the time, it will allow the other team the opportunity to catch up, and if they are already behind at the time of substitution, they will fall further behind.

Multiple Subs

Acceptance and Reinforcement

In most cases the sixth person role is filled by a single player. However, it can be multiple players and on rare occasions even five players. Determining and getting a player to accept the sixth person role can be a challenge since player's and parents' ego's can be involved. However, by communicating the vital importance of this unselfish team role, they should be more than likely to understand and accept the role as a real honor rather than a demotion.

The attitude and efforts of the sixth person(s) must also be recognized, fostered and supported whole heartedly by the entire coaching staff throughout the season. The NBA has recognized the importance of the Sixth Man and presents an annual award for the leagues most valuable sixth person which is an excellent idea to do on any level or team.


5 Stars

Developing a "Defensive Stopper"

Defensive Stopper

Defensive "Stoppers" are vital to any championship hopes

A vital but often overlook position is a defensive "Stopper." Having an outstanding defensive player, one who not only can deny or disrupt a great offensive players from receiving the ball; but, in addition, are masters of One-on-One defense and push points is essential to any championship hopes.

Defensive Stoppers must be developed and strongly supported.

Like shooters, stoppers are not born and just don’t happen. They must be development and nourished. Successful Defensive Stoppers are a result of having solid on and off ball defensive fundamentals along with a strong attitude and relentless determination.

Learn More Strong First Pass Denials

Learn More Defending Against Dribble Penetration

Defensive Stoppers must posses an attitude as well as aptitude to deny or disrupt great offensive players.

Defensive Stoppers are highly challenged and motivated when it comes to stopping and frustrating the opponent’s leading scorer. They thrive on the responsibility and opportunity of denying a good shooter a last second shot opportunity. However, this attitude and self-confidence must be created, fostered and supported by the coaching staff throughout the season.

A Defensive Stopper's role is entirely defense, not offense.

Points denied or not scored are just as important to the outcome of a game as points scored. Since a Defensive Stopper’s role is primarily that of a defensive specialist, any offensive output is a bonus. Their job is to STOP not score.

CAUTION: Do NOT go into a game without a defensive stopper!


5 Stars

Designated Inbounder

Inbounding the Ball

Inbounding the Ball Under Pressure

Games and championships are lost because teams cannot inbound the ball successfully at the end of the game.

Good inbound passers are hard to find. It is not so easy to inbound ball. Most players and coaches take making an inbounds pass for granted, and rely on individual player effort to get the job done. However, in making an inbounds pass, the passer is facing a five against four defensive advantage and only has five (5) seconds in which to locate a receiver and make a successful inbounds pass. In addition, to this numerical disadvantage, by rule the inbounder cannot move, except after a made shot. This provides the defense with the opportunity to jam or smother the passer very effectively with an active defender on ball. Also, on baseline out of bound situations, the backboard comes into play and becomes a real obstacle in which that the inbounds passer has to contend.

Learn More Out of Bounds Rules

Good inbounders must be developed

Players on all levels, including the NBA and WNBA, need to know and practice the fundamental skills and concepts required in making a successful inbound pass. In additional to good passing skills, inbound passers must possess a strong commitment to team play since they are taken for granted and very rarely rewarded for the efforts. However, good inbounders are vital, and a team will not win a championship without one.

Learn More Techniques & Principles of Inbounding the Ball

Learn More Getting Open & Receiving an Inbounds Pass

Learn More Improving Your Level of Passing


5 Stars

Designated Free Throw Shooter

Free Throw Shooter

Designated free throw shooters are another very important team role. In situations where the opponent must foul, you definitely want your best free throw shooters on the floor. In addition,Vital in a must foul situation at the end of the game, you want to inbound the ball to your best free throw shooter under pressure. This requires having out of bounds plays to free up your best free throw shooter to receive the inbounds pass.

Learn More "3 C's" - Key to Successful Free Throw Shooting

Learn More Out of Bounds Situations

Designated free throw shooters must also possess the ability to spread the floor and move the ball without getting foul. Being able to avoid being foul at the end of the game takes precious seconds off the game clock and, as a result, prevents any success of the opponent's end of game fouling strategy.

Learn More "Cat" Spread Offense




Return to Coaching Strategies - Click Here

Return to HoopTactics - Click Here>